Wednesday, February 08, 2017

New Boss, DeVos, addresses the Ed Dept troops

This afternoon Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos addressed an All-staff meeting at the Department of Education. It was a fairly standard political address that sought unity and touched all the bases. She was interrupted by laughter once and applause once in her ~10 minute talk.

Video here: DeVos @11:30  reading from prepared remarks:

"There's no need to pull any punches. For me personally, this confirmation process and the drama it engendered has been a bit of a bear."
(Ba dump dump)

door is open
committed to serve
work with anyone...any background
to protect, strengthen and create new world class education opportunities
came through bruising, divisive elections in modern times
blah blah
Educators are great...
kids are great...
I know I'm the newbie and I have a lot to learn.
I pledge to listen and learn from you.
"Let's make this deal. I will challenge all on how and why we've done things certain ways. But I will listen to each of you on your ideas for how we can do better for students."
loves diversity
wants to model inclusion
"The Department has a unique role in protecting students. We believe that students deserve a learning environment that fosters innovation and curiosity and that are also free from harm. I am committed to working with you to make this the case." (applause)
A paraphrase from the Book of Micah 6:8
Let's set aside preconceived notions
come together
Think big, be bold, and act to serve

This from Politico's Morning Education:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos [made] her debut at the department's headquarters this afternoon after being confirmed by the Senate yesterday and sworn in last night by Vice President Mike Pence (who cast a historic tie-breaking vote). DeVos [spent] most of her first day on the job touring the department's offices and meeting with top department officials, according to an internal memo obtained by POLITICO.

"No longer will our kids be trapped in too many public school systems that are too concerned with the status quo instead of student success," Pence said before swearing in DeVos. Pence said the tie-breaking vote was the easiest vote he ever cast.

DeVos' opponents, meanwhile, have vowed to keep putting up a fight. The confirmation vote was "just the beginning of a relentless, principled resistance to her radical agenda," Kait Sweeney, a spokeswoman for the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said. Members of teachers unions, civil rights groups and parents organizations who jammed Senate phone lines say they plan to keep the spotlight on the Michigan mega-donor and advocate for charter schools - and to devote their energy to scrutinizing the Education Department.

The fight to derail DeVos, while unsuccessful, has united a wide variety of advocates who care about education, said Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association, the nation's largest union. The union now has a "contact list to die for," she said. The NEA says it gathered about 1 million email addresses of those opposing DeVos' nomination and planned to mobilize that network of grassroots activists to push back against the Trump administration's agenda. "There will be no relationship with Betsy DeVos," Eskelsen Garcia said.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, the Republican chair of the Senate education committee, told Morning Education: "Just because we disagree doesn't mean we can't work together when the children are the important thing, the students are the important thing, and we ought to look for ways to create an environment where they can succeed. "

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), one of the two Republicans to vote against DeVos, echoed that sentiment, tweeting that, "Although I did not vote in favor of Betsy DeVos, now that she's been confirmed it is important we work together as she takes over."
Thomas Massie
We just got a new Education secretary, but already some GOP lawmakers are pushing to abolish the department altogether. A one-sentence bill, stating only that the Department of Education would end on Dec. 31, 2018, was filed on the same day that Betsy DeVos was sworn in as secretary. The bill was filed by Rep. Thomas Massie, who said in a statement that "neither Congress nor the President, through his appointees, has the constitutional authority to dictate how and what our children must learn." Several other lawmakers signed on, including House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz and Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI), Andy Biggs, Matt Gaetz, Jody Hice , Walter Jones and Raúl Labrador, according to the announcement.

The Democratic grassroots want high-profile fights, even if they end in losses. Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Education committee, bristled when a reporter asked if Democrats would be "giving up" on other nominees after their DeVos defeat, POLITICO's Elana Schor and Burgess Everett report . "Why would you ask that? Is there any sign that we're giving up?" Kaine shot back, maintaining a smile. "Give me evidence that we're giving up." Challenged about whether Democrats have the stamina for more all-nighters against nominees whom they can't bring down, Kaine replied: "Check us out on the next one."

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